Return to Grace opens with a narrator who sets the tone by outlining the trajectory of our journey. The audience is quickly swept up into the hysteria of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ when the curtain rises in front of a full orchestra and Elvis (Steve Michaels) bursts onto the stage with THAT’S ALRIGHT MAMA.
Michaels is decked out in a relatively modest, ‘early Elvis’ suit reflective of the late 50s when he first came onto the music scene. Michaels takes us back to HEARTBREAK HOTEL with such well-orchestrated signature movements, gestures, and facial twitches you’d swear you were watching the King himself. Michaels nails not only the swagger and charm but the humor and playful banter with the audience so much so that many virtually leaped out of their seats and rushed the stage.
Men and women alike bounced in their seats with the introduction of four male leather-clad back-up singers and Michael's vibrant renditions of HOUND DOG and TEDDY BEAR.
The narrator transitions us to the next phase of Presley’s career with a summary of political events. Four female singers, dressed in gold, join the male back-up singers and we are treated to RETURN TO SENDER and DEVIL IN DISGUISE. The audience laps it up like hungry dogs. “He’s really good,” says a woman to her partner, who nods in agreement. It’s when Michaels breaks in to DON’T CRY DADDY that we really see how invested in the illusion the audience has become. The gold-clad singers fill in the breathing space around the lyrics with notes that impact emotionally, and the tears begin to flow.
The eight back-up singers move to the front of the stage to flank Michaels for AMAZING GRACE and CRYING IN THE CHAPEL. It is here that we really hear the melodic tones in Michael’s voice. When he shifts into one of Presley’s most popular songs, HOW GREAT THOU ARE, the audience responds with uproarious applause.
Michaels exits and the stage is cleared but for the four male back-up singers who segue into SWEET, SWEET SPIRIT, appropriately a cappella.
Michaels returns head to toe in a high-collared black leather suit for ALL SHOOK UP, JAILHOUSE ROCK, and DON’T BE CRUEL. Dancers heat up the stage in red-fringed mini-dresses and shake up the two tiers of scaffolding behind the orchestra.
When Michaels slows it down for ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT an elderly lady stands up and carefully moves to the front of the stage with a red rose in hand. Michaels leans toward her and she hands him the rose and kisses him on his cheek. “Oh, I’m going to start crying,” says a woman in the next row, “She really believes it’s him.” Michaels appears equally moved and accepts the rose with grace.
LOVE ME TENDER and FOOLS RUSH IN complete the sweep of reminiscence as the audience sings along. IF I CAN DREAM ices the nostalgia cake as we progress to the next phase of the journey. Michaels exits again and three of the female back-up singers move to the front of the stage for a powerful rendition of SWEET INSPIRATION.
Silver-clad dancers set the stage for Michaels who returns in a red shirt and black jacket wrapped in a karate sash for BLUE SUEDE SHOES and VIVA LAS VEGAS. KENTUCKY RAIN and THE WONDER OF YOU wrap up the first half of the show and the crowd buzzes with a contagious vitality.
The entire ensemble returns to the stage decked out in high-collared white suits. To cap off the night Michaels bursts onto the stage in Presley’s trademark ‘Las Vegas’ rhinestone white suit, complete with red flower lei and acoustic guitar, for C.C. RIDER, BURNING LOVE, and YOU GAVE ME A MOUNTAIN. Michaels seduces the audience with FEVER, but it is the dancers who steal the show on this one with their moves around the chairs.
When Michaels starts into DIXIELAND the audience leaps to its feet for a standing ovation. The hype reaches its height during SUSPICIOUS MIND when ladies rush the stage for a coveted sweat-drenched scarf. Michaels kneels with his back to the audience and spreads his arms to reveal the work of art that is the rhinestone eagle on the back of his cape and the illusion is complete.
The show winds down with the final song of the evening, MY WAY, and another standing ovation. The energy in the room is almost palpable and the pure joy on the faces of the patrons as they exit the theatre is heart-warming.
Whether you are an Elvis fan or discovering him for the first time, this show is sure to please (even the pre-teens accompanying their grandparents seemed swept up in the event). Though a trip down memory lane this show does not have the retrospective sadness often attached to nostalgia, but a fresh sense of rediscovery of music still pertinent today.
For information and show times click HERE..